By Jacki-Lee Munckton
JACK LEE Australia was recently fortunate enough to be invited to Summer Rising – a vibrant, almost euphoria-inducing collaboration between artist Francesca Gnagnerella and Jess Pollitt of Perth – based label Ethel & Leo.
Awed by her tenacity and passion, we sat down with the bellezza that is Francesca Gnagnerella to discuss her past, present and future as an artist and collaborator.
So Francesca, tell us a little about your art background and how you came to be?
Well, I studied in Rome, where I'm from and I lived there until I was about 18. Sculpture was my first love when I was still at school and I created my first bronze sculpture under the tutelage of Italian sculptor Vito Pancella. When I moved to Paris to continue my studies at Sorbonne University, I decided however that painting was the area where I wanted to concentrate most of my artististic endeavours and it’s then that I started to develop my own painting technique. I started exhibiting in group shows in Paris in April 2006 and then had my first solo exhibition in Rome in May 2006.
Your artistic style is rather refined and very distinct – how would you describe it?
I create mostly large - format abstract paintings that reflect subtleties of colour, light, and luminosity. Most of my paintings are multi-layered and richly textured and they all feature 23 Carat gold leaf. I use bold, painterly brushstrokes and dripped paint together with thinned veiled stains to created shifting layers of colour. I am mostly inspired by landscapes, colours and experiences. I then reinterpret them in my mind into abstract form. Since I moved to Australia, my colour pallet has changed considerably and I find myself more inspired by the bright and cinematographic light of Perth and the natural elements that surround me here - the colours are so vibrant!
How did this phenomenal collaboration between yourself and Jess of Ethel and Leo materialise?
It was a matter of love at first sight when I first saw Ethel and Leo's creative dresses walking down the Perth Fashion Festival runway earlier this year. I loved every single piece of the collection and I didn't waste any time in getting in touch. I felt we needed to work together! Later this year Ethel and Leo dressed me for my exhibition in Hong Kong for the entire show, every day with a different outfit and everyone loved it! We knew we had to continue to work together and take the collaboration further. We found we have so much in common and the energy we share is amazing! It's really like our worlds are aligned. We didn't know each other before but we just fell in love with each other’s work and everything happened very quickly from there. "Summer Rising" was born!
Francesca with Jess Pollitt of Ethel & Leo, both dressed by E&L.
(Photo courtesy of Aimee Jones Photography)
We were fascinated by the innovative way in which the Summer Rising event was laid out – how would you describe it?
We have transformed my gallery apartment on the Swan River into a masterfully designed showroom made up of several spaces distinguished by various colour themes. For example, there is the beach - inspired paintings room, the geometrics and the nudes’ rooms. Having the exhibition displayed in my gallery apartment helps clients to visualise how the paintings would look in their own homes and having them displayed in a homely and styled environment definitely helps with the presentation. It also creates a really wonderful buzz and we all felt a much warmer atmosphere compared to the cold environment of some gallery spaces with quite a few people often embarrassed to ask questions or feel intimidated walking into traditional galleries - here I get to talk directly with all my guests and they love the personal approach in experiencing art.
What has been one of your personal favourite collaborations between art and fashion over the years?
It's amazing to see how much large fashion brands collaborate with artists to always reinvent their brand and always create something new and exciting. Most recently I loved the collaboration of Italian brand Furla with twelve Asian artists to produce exclusive designs for their Candy bags. Each bag was uniquely ‘artified’ for the #candycool project; I wish I was one of them!
With the success of Summer Rising, will we see you potentially collaborating further with Jess and Ethel & Leo?
Definitely! We all feel that this collaboration has to continue because it works so well. We are about to launch a limited edition dress using one of my paintings that was on show at the 'Summer Rising' exhibition. Called 'The Future of Now', it features bold pinks and oranges and will look amazing once transformed into an Ethel and Leo dress. It is only going to be produced in twenty metres onto the most softest of silk fabrics. I cannot wait to see it and to wear it! It will be perfect for hot summer festive nights!
You can follow Francesca on Instagram using @fragnagna_art
You can also follow Ethel & Leo on Instagram using @ethel_and_leo.
Aimee Jones Photography is available on Instagram using @aimeejonesphoto